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What to wear at this time of year?

Clothing, shoes and the joy of running

By: Kelty Campbell

We used to live in a world with endless fitness options, and while there are still lots of creative ways to get active without a fancy gym, running is the most primal – which is why it’s seen a huge boom during the coronavirus pandemic. Many, many people are learning to embrace running for the first time. Experienced runners can always spot the newbie, who is usually overdressed for the weather conditions. With such wide variation in weather conditions across the country (and Ontario in particular being hit by a late-spring polar vortex), learning what to wear in different conditions is a fine art that can drastically improve your experience of running.

What to wear?

Whatever the weather brings, what you would normally wear for a walk is not the same as what you should wear running. A general rule of thumb: plan to dress as if it were at least five degrees warmer than it is. You will be cold at first, but you’ll warm up quickly and be grateful that you don’t have extra layers on. Select quick-dry technical fabrics over cotton, which retains moisture when wet and could give you a chill.

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Gear for all seasons


On sunny days, a sweat-wicking hat to protect your skin from UV rays and/or sport sunglasses that don’t fog up are both excellent accessories to add to your closet. Synthetic sport socks will help you avoid nasty blisters from rubbing. If your outfit doesn’t have any pockets, a running belt is great for storing gels, phone, identification or keys. Lastly, for those who prefer running at night, look for reflective gear to help keep you visible to cyclists and drivers.

Above 10 C

If you live on the West Coast, you’re probably experiencing warmer temperatures, and running outdoors is pleasant but not sweltering. For most people, this is safely within the shorts and t-shirt or tank top range. A light long-sleeve might be preferred if it’s windy, and if it’s raining, add a light waterproof jacket.

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5 to 10 C

Atlantic Canada typically has a mild spring, which means warm but not too warm running conditions. Some runners prefer wearing shorts (even in cooler temperatures), but you may prefer capris for extra warmth. A long-sleeved tech shirt or light jacket will be sufficient to keep your core warm. If your hands tend to get cold, wear lightweight gloves that can easily be stuffed into your pocket once you’ve warmed up.

Photo: Clint Trahan

0 to 5 C

Springtime in Ontario typically means rollercoaster temperatures, but this spring it’s been particularly frosty, which means winter running garments are still getting lots of use. However, there are some runners who will don shorts as soon as the temperature goes above zero. If this isn’t for you, opt for capris or lightweight tights. Definitely put on a long-sleeve, and perhaps even a second layer, such as a light vest or jacket.

What kind of shoes do I need (and how many)?

Running is so accessible because it requires minimal gear. If running is a sport you get hooked on (and you will), you should think about investing in at least two different pairs of running-specific shoes.

The key differences between running shoes and cross-training shoes are in the sole flexibility and heel drop (the difference between the heel height and toe height). Running shoes are designed for high impact, with extra support and cushioning. Cross-training shoes or athletic shoes are designed for multi-directional movement and are typically flatter (i.e. they have a lower drop, with the heel being at the same height as the toe, or just a millimetre or two higher).

Sporting Life 10K 2019 top 5 winners (male). Photo: Canadian Running

Wearing the wrong type of shoes can lead to injury, so it’s best to consult a running store to help you identify the right type of shoe for your running style. For example, if your feet tend to roll inward excessively when running (this is called overpronation), you should choose a stability shoe. If not, choose a neutral cushioning shoe. You’ll notice a wide range of prices in shoes, and within reason, shoes are like anything else, in that you get what you pay for. The most expensive shoe isn’t necessarily the best shoe for you, but if you go for the cheapest shoe, its cushioning material will likely break down faster than a better-quality model. Ultimately, comfort may be the best predictor of whether a running shoe will work well for you.  

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The average lifespan of a pair of running shoes is around 500 kilometres. By rotating a few different pairs of shoes, you’re giving ample time for the foam in your shoes to decompress and spring back, helping them to last longer and saving you money in the long run (pun intended).

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